Wow what a meeting! We went through every emotion imaginable! First of all, the children's social worker didn't arrive and when we eventually got hold of her she was still in her office having just come out of another meeting, asking whether or not to come over. We were holding our heads in disbelief that the meeting wasn't going to go ahead. I was getting very angry! We managed to persuade her that she should come so she had to drive the 45 minutes to get to us. She ended up being an hour and a half late!
In the mean time the family finding social worker had got a list the list of questions back from the foster carer that we had asked for, which was brilliant and we hadn't expected to get them back. She answered all our (97 - yes 97! Thanks everyone on AUK who contributed to the list!) questions and this gave us a wonderful 'picture' of what the children are like. You may remember that the information we have on the children is a year old, so we were expecting some changes. Most of the changes are positive, like Tidge's (the middlie) feeding issues have improved and so on. A couple of things have surprised us, such as thinking Midge (the oldie) is in school but he is in fact in nursery. Also, Squidge (the littlie) is certainly no baby any more, as he is running around!
As we were going through the list, the children's social worker arrived and Mungo made more tea! Then they ran through all the questions that were asked of us back in July when we first met the family finding social worker and the children's previous social worker. A couple of minor things had changed, one of which was the school choice we have since made. As we haven't yet met with the nursery or received a nursery report we can't make the final decision anyway. We also talked about whether we wanted to meet the birth parents and we agreed that we would. The last contact between the children and their parents is coming up soon and we are disappointed that it is going to be held in one of our favourite photo-taking places. But at least we know and we will ensure that we never go there by accident and risk bringing up lots of sad memories. Bit sad really.
Then came the time for our social worker to do her stuff! (Yes we had three social workers around the table all at the same time!) She asked lots of questions about the paperwork that was outstanding and meeting dates that still needed putting in the diary. The children's paperwork still needs to be updated; the CPR's for Midge and Tidge are done, just need Squidge's completing. Their annual medicals are due this month so we are hoping that they will be done before we meet the medical adviser, so we can discuss up-to-date information. We have a meeting pencilled in for 12th March (a week today) to meet with the foster carer and a representative from the nursery. And last, but by no means least, a date for panel. They confirmed that we will be going to matching panel on 9th April! Yay! Let's hope it is third time lucky!
We also talked about finances and what support they are likely to give us. Basically, it is likely to be £250 per child as a settling in allowance and expenses for introductions. Their adoption allowance (like Child Benefit) is means tested so it is unlikely that we will get anything. Our social worker said she might try to squeeze them on that, because I have given up work and intend to do so for a few years and the more money we get in the longer it will be before I have to go back to work and that's a massive benefit for the children. They might pay for a cleaner for a month or two and they might pay for Mary's Mum's petrol for the first few weeks as she will be coming over to help out. So we shall see what of that we will get.
We also talked about feedback from the judge's summing up after the Care order and Placement Order were granted and we have been allowed to have it shared with us. So we are just waiting for our social worker to send it to us, for us to read and ask any questions on. The judge has asked that we be asked if we would be prepared to meet up with and have contact with the children's half siblings and we have said it would need to be properly risk-assessed for the benefit of the children and we don't mind either direct (face-to-face) or indirect (letterbox) contact.
It was then time to do a tour of Mungo Mansions lol and show the new social worker around the place, explaining where the kiddies bedrooms will be and how bed and bath routines will work. She was very impressed - we have a big house! Whilst Mary was doing the tour, Mungo asked the family finder approximate dates for introductions and they suggested that after waiting up to 10 days for the Decision Maker's official response, introduction planning could start as early as the week beginning 19th April with intros starting that week. They are likely to take about ten day to two weeks and so the children could be moving in at the start of May! Still speculative, but very exciting!
Then came the special bit that will make you go all goose-bumpy! They had photos and video of the children for us to see! After the technology learning curve(!), we all sat around the TV and watched these three amazing children making paper aeroplanes with their foster carer! Because the photos we did have of them were photocopies of poor quality pictures that were a year old, they looked completely different. I wouldn't have recognised them if I bumped into them in the street! They were beautiful, happy, contented and very well looked after. They looked so much like us it was unbelievable and the two boys looked just like my younger nephew - it was spooky. In terms of looks, we couldn't have had a better match! I was in awe of these three little people and I did have a couple of 'cold feet' moments when I thought OMG we are going to be responsible for all three of these children! They were so bubbly and chatty, playing very nicely, it was a joy to watch. So we watched it again!
The social workers said the foster carer was very experienced and would be brilliant at preparing and moving them on. So we are very relieved, as we have heard horror stories about how some minority of foster carers don't want the children to move and and so don't prepare them properly or go out of their way to mess up introductions. It's shocking, as moving on the children is part of their job that they get paid to do. Like I said, it is a small minority and we weren't sure what she would be like, but now we know and we are very happy indeed!
Whilst we were watching the video, I showed our social worker the plans I had for the introduction books for the children. My feeling was that they didn't think much of them and gave me lots of other ideas, so it's back to the drawing board. The 'Tomy Talking Baby Photo Album' was mentioned and that has been mentioned numerous times on the Adoption UK message boards so I think some more investigation is needed.
They also asked us if at any time we had wanted to pull out and we said no but that the process was very long and we suffered emotionally quite a lot when there were long gaps between activity. That was the hardest thing to do and we said that we think they shouldn't have contacted us so early the second time around. Let's hope they bear it in mind if they are in the same situation again. Then we asked if we could have copies of the photos and video and they said no because we haven't been to matching panel yet. I was very sad but knew it was the right thing to do.
They finally left at 6.20 after the meeting was supposed to start at 3pm and then our social worker asked us some questions like how did we feel now we have seen the children and are we happy to proceed - um that's a big fat yes lol After wrapping up, our social worker left at about 6.45 and we got our shoes on and walked to our favourite restaurant where we celebrated with a lovely meal and glass or two something rather nice :)